Scott Shapiro's Players Championship preview

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March 9th, 2021

Bryson DeChambeau shot 1-under par Sunday, despite challenging conditions at Bay Hill, to earn a two-shot victory over Lee Westwood at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

It was DeChambeau’s eighth win on the PGA Tour and vaulted him to sixth in the World Golf Ranking. Westwood gave DeChambeau all he could handle in Orlando but could not make enough putts to earn him his first victory in the U.S. since he won a three-man playoff at the St. Jude Classic in 2010. Canadian Corey Conners used elite iron play to finish third last week.

The Florida swing moves to iconic TPC Sawgrass for what is often referred to as the “fifth major.” The Players Championship does not offer the same prestige as the Masters, PGA Championship, Open Championship, and U.S. Open, but the $2.7 million prize pool helps attract one of the strongest fields of the year.

Dustin Johnson sits atop the outright market and is at a much more playable price (+1100) than he has been in recent starts at the WGC-Workday and Genesis Invitational. Jon Rahm, DeChambeau, and 2019 Players champion Rory McIlory also sit below +1500.

2021 Players Championship odds

Dustin Johnson
Bryson DeChambeau
Rory McIlroy
Jon Rahm
Patrick Cantlay
Justin Thomas

Obviously, the top choices can win at TPC Sawgrass, but a relatively short course and an abundance of water hazards gives far more players a chance to come away with a top finish this week.

Jason Day (+4500, +1100 top 5)

The 2015 PGA Championship winner has battled injuries over the past few seasons, which has led to some up-and-down results, but he seems to be in solid form heading to Ponte Vedra Beach.

The 33-year-old finished seventh at Pebble Beach, 18th at Concession, and appeared poised for a top 10 at Bay Hill before he faltered badly Sunday.

I am willing to forgive that Sunday performance in very tough conditions, since Day is heading to a course where he has had success, including a Players victory in 2016.

The Australian’s subpar approach play is always a concern, but he makes up for it in other areas.

Off the tee, he has gained more than two strokes on the field in each of his last two events. He also has one of the best short games on the PGA Tour and has always been an outstanding putter.

Day will need to be immaculate around the greens and with his putter if he wants to hoist the trophy Sunday, but the value is there.

Abraham Ancer (+7000, +700 top 10)

Ancer has just one win on the PGA Tour, but it is just a matter of time until he rattles off his second and third. The 30-year-old is too short off the tee to contend at courses that require more length, but that is not the case at Sawgrass, where hitting fairways and being great with the long irons is a recipe for success. He illustrated that in 2019, when he finished 12th at the Players.

His game has lacked consistency in 2021, with a pair of missed cuts sandwiched between three top 20 finishes, but I feel good about his form heading into the Players.

He ranks 12thh in the field over the last 12 rounds in strokes gained approach, 17th in fairways gained, and 12th in par 5 scoring, which is key at Sawgrass, a par 72 course He will need to make far more putts than he did at the WGC-Workday where he was great from tee to green, but I love the value he provides this week.